Speech Contest Tackles Homeless Crisis


Yasmine Chang, Staff Writer

With homelessness and its solution as its theme, the 83rd annual speech contest took place at the Moraga Public Library on February 5.

According to librarian Sarah Morgan, students delivered speeches ranging from 5 to 10 minutes in length.

Sophomore Lela Tolajian, a former contestant said, “I really like public speaking and I think it’s really important for people to speak their minds and talk about issues they care about.”

Senior Samuel Morash, 1 of this year’s speakers, said, “I was inspired to participate in the competition mostly because I find the lack of awareness of the homelessness crisis in Moraga amongst all age groups, specifically students, alarming. I think it is necessary as a resident of a state with the immense wealth California has, to talk about the issue with urgency whenever I can.”

“I think it’s a good thing for people to be talking about it and advocating for why it’s important,” Tolajian agreed. There are an estimated 383,000 people living on the streets in the United States.

“That’s a lot of people without proper homes,” Morgan said.

A report from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development showed that a quarter of homeless people in America inhabit California, adding up to around 151 thousand people.  According to Statista, California has the 4th highest homelessness rate in the U.S. 

“I think that a lot of the people competing in the speech contest are seniors and almost 18, so I think it’s really good that people who are about to be able to vote are doing more research on it like homelessness which is a big problem in California,” Tolajian said.

Morasch proposed that California build “legal jurisdiction” so that corporations cannot escape taxes. “Apple, whose headquarters are in Cupertino, ran its business…through Ireland and was able to receive €12 billion in illegal tax breaks until a European Union court found them guilty of doing so in September of last year,” he said.

“It’s well known that some of these companies, which are all amongst the most valuable in the world, repeat formulas like this and escape California’s high taxes. The state needs to build legal jurisdiction to eliminate this loophole. Doing so would generate a lot of revenue that could go towards long term solutions for homelessness like housing programs,” said Morasch.

“I think it’s good that young people are talking about [important] issues,” Tolajian said.